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Oh, make it all a nightmare!
The reformists are about to make their exits, irrevocably, and Khatami with them, and the rest of us did, for all intents and purposes, NOTHING

July 26, 2004

With much anticipation it happened a few months ago. I planned to tell you about it at the time, but I couldn't. I hope you forgive me. I think the main reason I couldn't communicate it with you at the time was because I needed to first process it myself. Not that I have completely come to terms with it, but at least now I can talk about it. I know I was not straight forward with you. I should have been, I know.

Please stop your nagging, it's really annoying when you do that. I said I'm sorry. Come here, you big slug. Give me a hug. Come on... aah, that's better.

There, there. I promise not to do it again. I promise. This isn't going to be easy for me, you know. There's no gentle way to say it. So, here it is. Please try to remain calm and try to understand what happened. All I expect from you is to try and not get emotional, alright? So, without further ado: The reformists have been defeated.

I'm sorry. I know what hearing this does to you. They lost the parliamentary elections back in February, and soon the smiley seyyed will be leaving office as well. They're all gone into oblivion, end of story.

It sounds so bleak, a sentence that should never be said: The reformists have lost. But it's the truth and one should always be prepared to accept the truth. Yes, I've had the same thoughts, over and over, as you are having now. Yes, the fact that most of their candidates were vetted out by the woolly men in the Council of Guardians is senseless and baffling and self-destructive of the Islamists. I wish I had more comfort to give. Sometimes things happen that we simply can't explain.

There's no rhyme or reason to it. I don't want to think about it, and yet somehow I can't stop. No politician in the Islamic Republic knows how to help the regime survive better than the reformists. After the fall of the Taliban, the Islamic regime has become one of the most hated in the world, and so the top leader decides to, err, let the reformists go? Am I missing something here?

The upsetting fact remains that the reformists are about to take their leave. I keep going over it. I can't help myself. I'm numb. The reformists. Are about to. Be thrown out of. The Islamic regime. I mean, everyone knew Mohammad Khatami was thinking of resigning. That rumor had been around for months, or even years. Ditto about the reformists in general.

But thinking of leaving and actually leaving are two different things. As the candidates' credentials were being rejected (chief among them Khatami's brother and Nabavi and some of the regime's elite) during the funniest episode of the recent Iranian history, aka the Majles sit-in ) the finality of it sank in with the spectators: "This is it. They're leaving. No more reformist/conservative duality. The purification is complete. The regime is solidifying."

Reformist fans began to sob. Student activists split off and declared autonomy. They called for a democratic revolution. Ehsan Naraghi, a giant of an intellectual, sat there on the steps of the Majles building with his shoulders just heaving. Comedian Ebrahim Nabavi lost his humor and started to emit gibberish. He and writer Massoud Behnood completely lost it when they pleaded with the public to actually get out and vote. It had come to this.

A day or two later, people were dancing and celebrating. Nobody had been able to believe it, and now that it was happening, they needed to tell the entire world. A reformist analyst, who won't let me use his name, due to grief, had his kids stencil "Reformists Lost the Election" on the front of his VW minivan, specifying that the letters be reversed and backward so that drivers in cars up ahead could read it and yield the road. Hazard lights flashing, he roared away into the Tehran night.

As for me, I only wanted to go off somewhere by myself and curl into a ball. Instead I ended up having tea with one of the republicans in Diaspora. You know the kind I'm referring to. An old Fedayeen leftist turned secular, who lives in Europe but gives quasi support to the regime. I agreed to pay the bill after he promised to reveal juicy secrets pertaining to the conservative agenda behind their recent maneuvers. When we realized how much we had in common politically, we talked of other matters, trying to lift one another's spirits, pretending all the while that the reformists weren't failing miserably.

Over time, I would learn that there are twelve stages a person goes through when the reformists leave the power structure in the Islamic Republic. The first is shock. The second is rage. The third is denial. The fourth is more rage. I forget the stages after that, because I'm still partly in shock.

During the rage period, it is quite natural to put a lot of blame on Khamenei, the leader of the faceless, soulless regime, who indeed has much to answer to. Obviously, Khamenei must be a disturbed person to have let things deteriorate to such degree. But simply blaming Khamenei and letting go at that overlooks deeper and more systemic problems. Maybe one day we can address those issues together.

Strangely enough, I'm starting to feel better now. Confronting the sentence "The reformists have been defeated," deprives it of some of its primal power to terrify. I repeat it out loud, in my own voice, calmly: "The reformists have been defeated." And you see? The words are spoken, yet the earth continues to turn. No bolt of lightening struck me dead. The sun still shines.

Oh, hell! Who am I kidding? I try to put on a brave face and then it falls apart. Why was this defeat allowed to occur? Why did nobody stop those bullies in the Council of Guardians? Why didn't anyone try to talk some sense into Khamenei? And what about the rest of us? Why did we just sit idly by? The reformists are about to make their exits, irrevocably, and Khatami with them, and the rest of us did, for all intents and purposes, NOTHING.

The reformists say they are going to stay the course and build a civil movement, which is fine, but again I ask the question: Why? What greater purpose is served by men and women who understand reform going into building political movements, something in which, frankly, any reasonably experienced political activist can succeed? I know I should accept what can't be changed, but I am not able to, and I refuse to. "The reformists have been defeated." Make it not true.

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